Teaching middle school and high school students editing skills will allow them to fine-tune their work effectively. That helps shape them to be strategic and adaptive writers as they will figure out different ways to write a sentence. I have students work on their editing skills by including a peer editing day with every major writing assignment. When I plan a peer editing day, I use a peer editing station approach to help guide students through the process.
However, merely including peer editing in the classroom is not enough. There are other teaching writing strategies, such as explicitly focusing on practicing editing, to help students hone their skills. By practicing editing, students will start small by doing it with a partner, solo, or class, and then they will do their write-up.
But, before starting any exercise, your class should create a template of punctuation marks. For instance, have students fold a piece of paper vertical and write periods, commas, etc., on the left side. On the right side, they should write examples of the correct usage of each punctuation. Creating this punctuation guide will help students by providing them with valuable model sentences.
To start the editing exercise in class, have students edit a sentence on a strip of paper with easy mistakes written on it. As students get more comfortable with their editing skills, you can also have them create their sentences that contain errors and then exchange sentence strips with a partner. Once students exchange sentence strips, they should begin practicing their editing skills and then meet with their partners to discuss all of the corrections they made.
Another version of this activity occurs when the teacher writes a sentence on the board for the class to make editing suggestions themselves. This activity is excellent for a class starter or bell ringer exercise. Watch in fascination as students debate whether a comma belongs after or before a word.
So why start with small exercises? Well, opening with easy prompts will encourage students to be sharp writers throughout all of their work. Once they reach the long writing assignments, they will be sufficiently prepared and know what to correct. When students only focus on one sentence at a time, the task is much less overwhelming.
When you’re satisfied with your class’s knowledge and editing skills for a single sentence, move on to a more significant chunk of text. Have students start editing paragraphs. A great way to incorporate this activity into the classroom is to use paragraphs that students have written for another class assignment.
The goal is for you to include purposeful editing practice consistently in your classroom activities. The more the students work on editing work and revising writers, the stronger they will become at writing and editing.
Finally, as students become more proficient in their writing, start to incorporate writing workshops into the class. Having students read each other’s work will help expose them to the errors that they are blind to notice.